What’s a ‘spike’, you ask?
Very good question! And one we asked as well, when Simon, our Content Lead, asked us to do one.
A spike (as it turns out) is intensive time-limited work looking at resolving a particular problem or issue.
In our case, having written the new maternity pay and sick pay content for the public website, the Workplace Rights team needed to figure out what extra information advisers would need on those topics.
We began our spike clustered around a table, discussing the key information our frontline advisers would need to help with any maternity pay or sick pay problems.
From that, we wrote a content plan – which the rest of the team critiqued.
But we found everything we did took us round and round in circles. We simply weren’t confident we’d isolated all the extra info advisers would need to do their job.
And rather than endlessly debate what advisers might need, we decided to get some evidence – by writing some content and testing it.
We’re in the middle of testing and analysis now and it’s been incredibly helpful – far more efficient than guessing, and advisers have been engaged and optimistic about the final product.
We learned a few things along the way too…
Key principles of a spike
It’s an experiment
Try different things, fail fast and move on. Don’t waste time trying to answer questions too early on – not knowing is why you’re doing the spike.
Planning is key
Make sure everyone knows what you’re doing and is available before you set your meetings and deadlines. You’ll lose momentum if you can’t speak to people when you need to.
Stop and review
Assess what’s working/failing, then set your next priority. Working in half-day blocks helps with this – complete a task, assess the results and then decide your next task/priority. A quick exercise looking back at recent breakthroughs or blockers can help here – after finishing a task, at the end of the first week or when you’re trying to decide what to do next.
Analyse as you go
Analyse and record your learnings as you go, rather than waiting till the end of the spike. A master slide deck with summary slides of everything you’ve learned will help you decide your next steps.
- Keep the team small – work together in the office and preferably in the same space
- Don’t attend other meetings – stay focused on the spike
- Working in half-day blocks can help keep the momentum up
- It can take a while to recruit testers or organise research visits, so start recruitment as soon as possible (preferably before the spike begins)
- Don’t run your spike around a public holiday – people will be away, affecting your deadlines and outcomes
- It’s physically and mentally intense – take screen breaks and be careful of RSI
- Set specific outcomes and be clear when the spike finishes (otherwise it risks dragging on!)